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N.C. Opinions: Raleigh

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A Republican cash cow

From an editorial Thursday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

You have to give the Republicans now in charge on Jones Street this: They might have their legislative priorities wrong with a series of woefully misguided actions to deny Medicaid health care coverage to thousands of people (despite the federal government footing the bill) and to curb unemployment benefits (which also would have been paid by the feds) to people who desperately need them, but they’re getting the fundraising game down pat.

Fresh from the House Republican caucus are television ads pushing citizens to take an online survey about what they think the priorities should be for North Carolina. The caucus formed North Carolina House Legislative Partners, which its chairman, former State Rep. Danny McComas, solemnly described, as reported in The N&O’s Under the Dome, as an outreach for public opinion, yessiree.

“Today, more than any time before in our history,” McComas said, “it is important for all governing bodies to have the ability to communicate directly with the people.”

Makes one’s heart swell with patriotic pride, yes, it does.

Now naturally, they hope and in fact say that they want people to make donations to keep this Lincolnesque cause going. And here’s the beauty of it: A website launched by the group, nchouselegislativepartners.com, will offer up public opinion polls and petitions and be happy to accept those donations.

Because in the world of political committees this organization is classified as a nonprofit 501(c)4, contributors – including, of course, those much-discriminated-against special interest groups – are allowed to give unlimited sums of money, and the group doesn’t have to disclose the donors.

Now for those sanctimonious ethics-in-government types who worry about the outsized influence of those special interests ... well, they’re probably going to whine about the fact that this money-raising can take place when the legislature is in session.

Obviously, it’s not as if this is a secret, which is something. But critics who included some Republicans for years pointed to the contribution shakedowns conducted by Democrats long in power (who spread the money around to stay in power) as evidence of corruption, or close to it. Now that they’re in the front rows, their perspective seems to have changed a little.

It’s legal, and the Democrats, given their history, really can’t say much about it. But it doesn’t do a lot to build the public’s confidence in a government of, by and for them, as opposed to of, by and for special interest groups with deep pockets. One wonders whether there will be a question about that on any of these surveys.

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